Shakespeare Review: Pericles

Pericles by William Shakespeare

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

King Antiochus declares that any suitor for his daughter’s hand in marriage must first answer a riddle, and if the suitor answers incorrectly, he forfeits his life. Everyone has failed to answer the riddle, until Prince Pericles comes along, and figures out that the riddle means that Antiochus is committing incest with his daughter.

Enraged at being found out, Antiochus tries to have Pericles assassinated, and Pericles flees to the sea. A storm wrecks his ship and he is cast ashore with only his armor at Pentapolis, where King Simonedes is holding a tournament for his daughter’s birthday. Pericles wins the tournament and weds Thaisa.

While the happy couple are on their way back to Tyre, the pregnant Thaisa is so upset by a storm that she gives birth to a daughter, Marina, and promptly dies. The superstitious sailors insist that Pericles bury her at sea in a watertight coffin, but the coffin washes up on shore and a skilled doctor restores Thaisa to life. Thaisa, believing her husband and daughter to be dead at sea, becomes a priestess in the temple of Diana.

Pericles leaves baby Marina with some friends at Tarsus, and sails on to Tyre to rule his kingdom. Marina grows up beautiful and accomplished, so much so that her host parents are jealous for their own daughter, who is ugly and awkward. In a jealous rage, Marina’s adoptive mother plans to have Marina assassinated in a cliff by the sea, but Marina is saved by pirates who sell her into slavery to a brothel owner and a pimp.

However, the brothel owners are not happy with Marina, because she keeps preaching at their customers and inspiring them to lead virtuous lives. Marina keeps her purity, and finds employment as a tutor in gentle arts, like singing, embroidery, and elocution.

Meanwhile, Pericles has heard from the adoptive parents that his daughter, Marina, is dead, and he is in deep mourning. While he is traveling through Marina’s town, she is called in to play sweet music for him to soothe his grief. Her story comes out, and there is a joyful reunion between father and daughter.
The goddess Diana appears to Pericles in a dream, telling him to offer prayers at her temple, where he finds his wife, Thaisa, alive and well. Family togetherness ensues.

I really loved this play! There’s such good structure in the plot, and it flows very well from scene to scene. So many twists and turns! It kept me very interested for the next development.

I loved the characters for their goodness and nobility in difficult circumstances. The evil brothel villains were horrible, and I was gratified to see Marina triumph over them! Pericles can be rather shrewd and wise. He’s certainly a circumspect person, and I enjoyed seeing the character growth in him. Thaisa is a very impassioned person, not afraid of speaking her mind, although she only has a few lines.

All in all, I just loved the language, the story, the beautiful details in each scene! I liked that the story spans many cities and locations. It really took my imagination to different places! I also appreciated that there isn’t a lot of fluff and silliness in this play. I don’t remember seeing one awful pun or joke. The writing is rather serious and dramatic, but also graceful. I enjoyed it so much!

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